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AN APPLICATION to have Europe’s first university town in South Clare is to be lodged by the end of this week.

Plans to create up to 3,500 jobs in South Clare are envisaged to move in the right direction when the joint application of Clare County Council and the University of Limerick for a strategic development zone (SDZ) is made this week. The Government may designate certain areas of land as an SDZ where their development is considered to be of strategic national economic and social importance.

Up to 3,500 jobs have been forecast for the South Clare SDZ with the villages of Clonlara, O’Briensbridge and Castleconnell set to receive a big lift in terms of economic activity as a result.

Speaking at Tuesday’s meeting of the Shannon Municipal District, Director of Economic Development with Clare County Council, Liam Conneally confirmed the local authority in tandem with UL was “in a position to make an application to Government”. He was confident this would be completed by the end of this week. “It’s really good news. It will be up to the Government to designate the north campus of UL as an SDZ, we hope it will happen in the coming months,” he added.

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Conneally said the foundation for the project stemmed from a proposal made by Cllr Pat McMahon (FF) and former councillor Bill Slattery (FG) before the Southern Regional Assembly. The relationship with UL has “blossomed” with both parties keen to make the SDZ a success.

Clonlara representative, Cllr Michael Begley (IND) noted that it was two and a half years since the idea was first discussed, “we lost a year and a half of active development for various reasons”. He said pressure must be put on the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Darragh O’Brien (FF) so that the rest of his tenure is not spent making a decision on the application.

Clare’s Oireachtas members need to put their full weight behind the application, Cllr PJ Ryan (IND) stressed. “It is very important for our county and it is seen as a trophy project, I think our Oireachtas members should follow it up and put as much influence as they can on the Minister,” the Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council added.

Kickback from elected representatives to the application “is still simmering,” Cllr Gerry Flynn (IND) observed. “We’ve got to keep this alive and our Oireachtas members have a role to play,” the Shannon resident commented.

Oireachtas members can get the ear Minister O’Brien, Cllr John Crowe (FG) flagged, “we have to put pressure on them. We are so fortunate to have had Cllr McMahon and Bill Slattery on Southern Regional Assembly to get it off the ground”.

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